Sweet – Off the Record (1977)

Sweet_OffRecord4 out of 5 Stars!

Sweet’s seventh release, Off the Record, continues in the same style as the trio of platters that immediately preceded it (Sweet Fanny Adams, Desolation Boulevard, and Give Us a Wink), featuring some slamming and glamming Hard Rock, occasionally bordering on Metal, with each track laden with the wickedly rich, layered, and trademarked background harmonies Sweet did to perfection, surpassed (perhaps) only by Queen.

Off the Record is one of the band’s heaviest albums, thanks mainly to Andy Scott’s chunky and blazing guitars, and is crammed with powerful tunes such as “She Gimme Lovin’,” “Lost Angels,” “Live for Today,” “Fever of Love,” “Hard Times,” “Midnight to Daylight,” and “Stairway To The Stars,” while the lengthier and more complex track “Windy City” (with its “Woman From Tokyo”-like riff) easily ranks in my “Top 5 List” of best songs Sweet ever recorded. Despite the “heavy factor,” the band retains its catchy pop sensibilities throughout, with the majority of choruses being of “sing-along caliber,” and for diversity’s sake, the band also includes a lighter moment on the beautiful “Laura Lee” and a heaping dosage of funk on the appropriately named “Funk It Up (David’s Song),” which incidentally is my least favorite Sweet song on this or any other album within the band’s catalogue.

Therefore, for lovers of Hard Rock who wrote off the band due to its early pop hits such as “Wig Wam Bam” or “Little Willy” and are unfamiliar with this phase in the band’s varied history, Off the Record may come as a pleasant surprise. In many respects, mid-’70s Sweet had little in common with the original version of the group—no “bubblegum rock” here, only punchy, well-performed, and melodic Hard Rock with a Glam Rock edge, plus some of the most creative and stunning multi-layered background vocals in rock ‘n’ roll history.

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Mother’s Army – Fire on the Moon (1998)

MothersArmy_FireMoon4 out of 5 Stars!

Any new music from Joe Lynn Turner is on my “auto-buy” list, and with the ex-Rainbow/Deep Purple vocalist having been involved in so many various groups, one-off projects, and his own solo albums through the decades, that means I’ve made a ton of purchases with his name on them, and most everything he does is high on quality.

Mother’s Army, a “supergroup” also including guitarist Jeff Watson (Night Ranger), bassist Bob Daisley (Rainbow/Uriah Heep/Black Sabbath), and drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge/Cactus/King Kobra), was one such band that fell into that “auto-buy” category, and Fire on the Moon—the final of the band’s three releases—is rather an enjoyable affair.

Oddly enough, the band’s previous album (Planet Earth) didn’t quite hit the right mark for me, was a major step down in quality from the promising debut, and in Turner’s overall discography, ended up being one of my least favorite of all the albums on which he appears.

Therefore, I remember not holding out much hope for this collection upon its arrival in 1998, but thankfully, on the mighty opener “N.D.E.” and the tunes “No Religion,” “Way Out of the World,” “Moruroa Atoll,” “Another Dimension,” and the rip-roaring title track “Fire on the Moon,” the band actually sounded rejuvenated and more inspired, perhaps because legendary drummer Aynsley Dunbar replaced Appice and added some “fresh blood” to the mix.

Regardless of the reason, Mother’s Army ended its existence on a melodic and blazing high note, and Turner’s performance was, as always, impressive and clearly showed why he’s been so in demand all these years.

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